North Merseyside Local Wildlife Site Selection Guidelines

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North Merseyside Local Wildlife Site Selection Guidelines

1. Background
1.1 These Guidelines for selection of Local Wildlife Sites have been implemented in the North Merseyside districts of Liverpool, Knowsley, St. Helens and Sefton.

1.2 The conservation of North Merseyside’s wildlife heritage must address the needs of wildlife in the wider environment. The identification and conservation of a wider network of important sites is a major element for achieving biodiversity conservation in North Merseyside. A total of 161 Local
Wildlife Sites have been designated using guidelines drawn up to identify the most important botanical sites in North Merseyside. These sites have been designated within the Unitary Development Plan of each of the North Merseyside districts. The Council has prepared these revised guidelines in partnership with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and English Nature. These guidelines for selection were agreed for use across North Merseyside by the Merseyside Local Sites Partnership in September 2006.

1.3 Work to review the guidelines commenced in 2002. Some additional surveys have been undertaken, notably on birds. Most work was directed towards the collation and assessment of existing data on lesser known animal and lower plant groups. The preparation of ‘A Biodiversity
Audit for North West England’ has helped this process. Representatives of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and the Merseyside Environmental Advisory Service have driven forward the Local Wildlife Sites review. Contributions have been forthcoming from various sources including the bird recorders
of North Merseyside, the Merseyside and West Lancashire Bat Group, National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside based at Liverpool Museum and vice-county recorders for several groups including higher plants, lower plants, and invertebrate groups. Drafting of the guidelines has been
the responsibility of the North Merseyside Local Authorities yet this work could not have been undertaken without the input of many organisations and individuals. The level of support from the recording community is greatly appreciated and hopes to continue the partnership approach to
protecting and conserving biodiversity in North Merseyside.

1.4 In North Merseyside, the existing guidelines for selection of Local Wildlife Sites will remain in place, with some minor amendments to take account of international and regional significance. It is essential to take account of international importance as some of North Merseyside’s Local Wildlife Sites have species that are of international importance, such as Great Crested Newt. North Merseyside also has a duty to consider species of international importance when assessing applications for development. Regional significance has been taken into account as there are now
sufficient data to enable a regional context to be established. The region comprises the metropolitan county areas of Merseyside and Greater Manchester and the shire counties of Cheshire, Cumbria and Lancashire.

1.5 These guidelines are designed to identify sites with significant habitats, plants, breeding populations or presence of those animals, lower plant and fungi species important for biodiversity conservation in North Merseyside. Guidance for Local Biodiversity Action Plans was followed to identify the
priority species and habitats on North Merseyside. Each site will be assessed against all Guidelines and will be designated as a Local Wildlife Site if it meets the requirements of either as it would demonstrate substantive nature conservation interest. This approach rolls forward the existing guidelines and reviews existing Local Wildlife Sites while also enabling the identification of sites which are important for other groups.

1.4 Guidelines H1 to H4 and SP1 to SP3 are scored in order to asses the importance of the contribution of these features to the site’s overall nature  conservation interest. This process enables those sites with substantive plant and habitat nature conservation interest features to be identified. These sites merit designation as Local Wildlife Sites. The remainder of the Guidelines set out the requirements to be met for the feature of interest e.g. breeding bird populations. When any of these Guidelines are met the site merits designation as a Local Wildlife Site. The two sets of guidelines will operate in parallel and are combined in this document.

1.5 The importance of non-statutory sites as well as statutory sites in conserving biodiversity is recognised in the Government’s Planning Policy Statement 9 (2005) on Biodiversity and Geological Conservation and in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (1994). The Town and Country Planning Act
1991 introduced a duty on local authorities to include surveys of biological features within those surveys to be undertaken to inform an authority of the interests present in its area. The Merseyside Environmental Advisory Service has established and maintains a Sites/Species Database on behalf
of North Merseyside Council which is updated approximately every two years. Many data are provided between review dates. These data are used to inform the decision making process in planning, land management and other decision making functions of the Council.

1.6 Selection of Local Wildlife Sites is supported by a Site Citation for each site. The citation sets out the nature conservation features of substantive interest and includes a site map showing the boundary. Copies of the citations are available from North Merseyside Council Town Planning.

2. Aim of Guidelines
2.1 The aim of the Local Wildlife Site selection guidelines is to enable the systematic identification of those sites which, together with the statutory wildlife sites, make the most significant contribution to the conservation of biodiversity in North Merseyside.

2.2 Any losses of these sites would be regarded as significant beyond the immediate locality, and would be difficult or impossible to replace for all practical purposes (e.g. for reasons of antiquity, complexity, specialisation or location). The survival and conservation of Local Wildlife Sites is a key
indicator of sustainable development. Land use planning provides a major opportunity to protect these sites from development. Other mechanisms are also required to ensure their successful management and prevention of degradation through inadequate or poor management regimes.

2.3 Land use planning and conservation of biodiversity go hand-in-hand. Government guidance in Planning Policy Statement 9 sets out the relationships between the two and advises on the need for planning protection for statutory and non-statutory sites. The Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.) Regulations 1994 set out the requirements for ensuring the consideration and protection of sites, species and habitats of European importance and also refer to their implementation at a local level.

2.4 The biodiversity of North Merseyside as a whole has been assessed. Hence, Local Wildlife Sites may include all or parts of Sites of Special Scientific Interest. The use of all relevant data reinforces the rigorous approach to defining the guidelines and also in selecting appropriate sites.